#120) Pull My Daisy (1959)
OR “That’s Not Filming, It’s Typing”
Directed by Robert Frank & Alfred Leslie
Written by Jack Kerouac
Class of 1996
The Plot: The closest this film gets to a plot is a story involving Milo (Larry Rivers), a railroad brakeman who hangs out with his Beat writer friends (Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, & Peter Orlovsky). When Milo’s wife (Delphine Seyrig, aka Beltaine) invites a Bishop (Richard Bellamy, aka Mooney Pebbles) over for dinner, the Beat writers invite themselves over and provide an interesting night for everyone. Jack Kerouac improvises narration alongside the film.
Why It Matters: The NFR calls it an “adroit parody of the beat generation” and reveals that despite it initially being hailed as a piece of cinéma vérité, the whole thing was staged.
But Does It Really?: I freely admit that I don’t get this Beat stuff, but it’s a piece of American culture that should be preserved, and I’m glad someone had a camera handy to capture this group in action.
Everybody Gets One: Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie were, respectively, a filmmaker/photographer and painter who were hanging out with the Beat writers at the time. I am not hip enough to summarize the life and careers of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
Wow, That’s Dated: When your film focuses solely on the beat generation, it could only be 1959.
Title Track: No one says “pull my daisy”, but we do get a title song!
Seriously, Oscars?: Oh, if only this had gotten an Oscar nomination. The Academy would have been scratching their heads so much during those screenings.
- “A G-String Enterprise”? I like this film already!
- Directors Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie don’t have a single last name between them.
- We get the word “hipster” thrown out here in its original ‘40s context. Though could you imagine Ginsberg or Corso eating brunch or ironically listening to vinyl?
- Are we sure it’s just cigarettes they’re smoking?
- Kudos as always to “I’m Not There.” casting director Laura Rosenthal, because David Cross really does look like Allen Ginsberg.
- And of course, that’s a young unknown Dustin Hoffman as the bishop. (It’s not really, but at least one of you will read this and think it’s true.)
- Why the mini American flag? But then again, why anything in this film?
- I want Jack Kerouac to do commentary on every film. Especially the silent ones.
- Robert Frank did a handful of documentaries, most notably The Rolling Stones’ “Cocksucker Blues”, before returning to photography.
- Alfred Leslie returned to painting and charcoal drawing, though sadly most of his work was destroyed in a fire in 1966.
- There is no way I can summarize the post-“Daisy” work of Kerouac and Ginsberg in a short blog post. Keoruac alone published more writing posthumously than I will in my entire lifetime.
Listen to This: Perhaps the most famous poem of the Beat Generation, Allen Ginsberg recorded “Howl” in 1959 for posterity, and started one of the great obscenity legal cases of all time. Read more about Howl in this informative essay by Library of Congress employee Cary O’Dell.